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Convenience and reliability Improving GC Efficiency with a Hydrogen Generator

Hydrogen gas is in high demand among labs across the world. Commonly used as a carrier gas for GC analysis, as well as a fuel gas to supply flame detectors, it’s easy to understand why so many labs need a reliable source of hydrogen gas. In this article, you can find out how you can safely produce your own hydrogen, on-demand, whilst maximizing your uptime with an in-house hydrogen generator.

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Fig.1: The Precision Hydrogen SL has a smaller footprint than the Precision version and produces hydrogen at up to 200cc/min.
Fig.1: The Precision Hydrogen SL has a smaller footprint than the Precision version and produces hydrogen at up to 200cc/min.
(Source: Peak Scientific)

Increasingly laboratories using hydrogen as a carrier gas or fuel gas are moving away from more traditional bulk gas supplies, thanks to the cutting-edge technology of hydrogen generators.

For many labs, safety is probably the most important factor in deci­ding to supply gas from a hydrogen generator. Pressurized cylinders contain a large volume of gas at high pressure and are a potential danger to a lab and technical staff, as well as presenting an explosion and fire risk.

The safer alternative to supplying gas to your instrument is using an in-house hydrogen generator. Installing a hydrogen generator in your lab means you can put an end to the risk of moving cylinders and storing high volumes of potentially explosive hydrogen gas in the work-place, since hydrogen generators produce only the hydrogen required to meet the instrument’s demand.

The compact design of hydrogen generators means that they can be positioned close to the instrument, with minimal impact on bench space, and Peak have different options depending on a lab’s needs. The Precision series offers additio­nal nitrogen and zero air generators that can stack with hydrogen to provide 3 gases. Peak’s Precision Hydrogen SL generator for GC-FID has been specifically designed as a bench-top generator with a tiny footprint to minimize the amount of bench space taken up, whilst producing enough gas to support multiple GC detectors. In the unlikely event that a leak does occur, a hydrogen generator from Peak is designed with built-in advance fail-safe technologies that will prompt it to shut down, to prevent any risk to lab personnel.

One of the other key advantages of hydrogen generators is the unmatched convenience they offer. With an in-house hydrogen generator, labs have access to their gas supply 24/7, without having to monitor gas levels. Once a hydrogen generator is installed in the lab, logistical planning to schedule deliveries and time spent installing gas cylinders become a thing of the past, since generating your own gas means you will only require a one-time delivery for your equipment, which once installed, requires only periodic maintenance to ensure that it runs optimally year after year.



Hydrogen generators require very little maintenance, with an annual change of a de-ionizer cartridge required on all systems to protect the PEM cell, which is the heart of the generator, as well as periodic replacement of desiccant and water.

Maintenance of the Precision Hydrogen SL generator for GC-FID has made maintenance easier — periodic replacement of the proprietary desiccant capsule can be performed in under 60 seconds by the user, requiring no tools or technical expertise. Maintenance of Peak hydrogen generators can usually be self-managed, but Peak’s extensive support network can also be utilized to keep your generator fully maintained.

Environmental implications

Whether you require hydrogen as a carrier gas or a fuel gas for GC-FID, when compared to gas cylinders, having a hydrogen generator in your lab can make a huge difference to your impact on the environment. Once installed, a generator stays in the lab, with maintenance and servicing of the generator conducted on-site. This means the generator can reduce a lab’s overall carbon footprint by eliminating the need for repeated gas deliveries. The process by which hydrogen is produced by a generator is also in contrast to the energy intensive process of steam reformation of methane, which is the most common method of cylinder hydrogen production. As an alternative to helium, hydrogen also offers a renewable alternative to a finite gas that has a complex, energy-intensive process of production and purification.

Another factor to consider if you are looking to invest in a hydrogen generator is how cost-effective they can be. As the cost of helium increases, in-house hydrogen generators are increasingly being seen as a more cost-effective option for GC carrier gas supply, eliminating additional costs associated with bulk gas supply such as cylinder delivery and rental charges. Even with annual preventative maintenance, the running costs of a hydrogen generator are extremely low, since hydrogen is produced from deionized water. Considering these savings, some labs using high volumes of carrier gas can see a return on investment within the first 1 — 2 years of ownership.

From helium to hydrogen

The ongoing helium crisis, which began to severely affect analytical labs in 2019 has led a number of industry sectors to rethink their reliance on helium, with the Gas Chromatography community being no exception. Helium, despite being the second most abundant gas in the universe, is a non-renewable resource, which is refined as a by-pro­duct of natural gas.

This means that unlike other gases such as nitrogen or hydrogen, helium is not readily available, and its supply is almost entirely dependent on the fossil fuel industry. Since the United States has now initiated the shut-down of its federal helium reserve, there has been a severe impact on the global helium market and many have seen suppliers struggle to keep up with market demand, causing helium prices to spike and some customers unable to guarantee supply.

More GC labs are now looking to alternative carrier gases to helium, where possible, and hydrogen is the main contender. The chemical properties of hydrogen make it in many ways superior to helium, offering faster analysis, better separation and reducing GC-MS maintenance requirements.

As hydrogen gas generators become better known as a safe technology, fewer GC users have concerns about using hydrogen as a carrier gas since high purity hydrogen gas can now be generated safely and inexpensively from water. Coupled with the increased safety of GC instrumentation, there has surely never been a better time to use hydrogen carrier gas.

Hydrogen generators

Peak’s Precision Hydrogen generators come in two variants: standard and trace. The standard model is designed to provide detector gas for flame detectors such as FID and is available in different flow rates ranging from 100 to 1200 cc/min, at a purity of up to 99.9995%. The trace model can deliver from 250 to 1200 cc/min of UHP hydrogen for both carrier and detector gas, at a purity of 99.9999%. One generator can supply multiple detectors and GC or GC-MS units.

Precision Hydrogen SL is designed to provide an efficient hydrogen gas solution for GC flame detectors at a purity of 99.9995%. The smallest laboratory-grade hydrogen generator in its class, Precision Hydrogen SL produces hydrogen at the push of a button, whilst taking up minimal lab space. Available in both 100 and 200 cc, Precision Hydrogen SL is simple to use and easy to maintain, featuring advanced fail-safe technology with minimal gas storage. SL provides laboratories with a safer alternative for supplying hydrogen gas to GC detector flames.

With over 20 years of experience in innovating nitrogen, hydrogen and zero air generators for LC-MS and GC / GC-MS, Peak Scientific has developed robust and reliable hydrogen generators with a good understanding of a lab’s priorities to have safer, more efficient, high purity gas. All generators are manufactured at Peak’s ISO 9001 accredited center of excellence and are supported on-site by Peak’s global network of field service engineers. With the company's hydrogen generators, users can have a consistently pure GC gas supply to rely on.

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* *E. Connor Peak Scientific Ltd., PA4 9RE Inchinnan/United Kingdom